Tips for Scholarship Seekers
Applying for scholarships can be extensive and time-consuming. Where do you start? We offer the following recommendations to help you plan.
General Application Suggestions
- Start early!
- Remember that your scholarship application represents you on paper. Write it so that it reflects the person you are.
- Give your application the time, attention and careful preparation it deserves.
- Read and follow the instructions carefully.
- Type or print neatly.
- Don’t leave any questions blank or unanswered.
- Review your work. Be specific and answer all questions. Be personal to make your application stand out. Check spelling and grammar. Ask a parent, friend or teacher to proof read your completed application.
- Be honest and be yourself.
- Don’t be afraid to highlight your strengths, your accomplishments and yourself.
- Be truthful and open.
- Make certain the people you ask to write your recommendation letters know you well. In the letter, ask them to include your name, how they know you, and in what capacity. Also, be sure to send thank you letters to the individuals who wrote your recommendation letters.
- Track deadlines carefully because financial aid and scholarship offices follow them faithfully!
- You are responsible for making sure your application is complete and arrives on time. If letters of recommendation or official transcripts are required, give individuals who will be providing these documents enough time to prepare them. Also, be sure to provide stamped, addressed envelopes if recommendations are to be mailed separately.
- Make a copy of the complete application for your own record.
- Keep a written record of all scholarships for which you applied. Make a note of the deadlines, requirements and responses.
Writing Your Personal Statement
While the personal statement is probably the most difficult part of your scholarship application, it also provides an opportunity to shine and stand out from the rest of the crowd.
Scholarship selection committees review hundreds, if not thousands, of personal statements. It’s your job to get their attention when they read yours. The key to writing a strong personal statement is to be truthful and honest, include details that allow the reader to get to know who you are and what you stand for. Be sure to address every question.
Here are a few helpful tips for writing a personal statement:
- Think before you write. Brainstorm and ask family, friends, or teachers to help you generate ideas. Then, create an outline to help you organize your thoughts and get started. If there are specific questions required, be sure that you address each one clearly.
- Be original and creative in your answers.
- Show, don’t tell. Use examples to personalize your essay and demonstrate the points you want to make. Specific examples will avoid vagueness and make a stronger impression.
- Know your audience. Personal statements will not necessarily be applicable for each application. Write an essay that meets the requirements of each organization and scholarship application.
- Neatness counts. Make sure your personal statement is typed and adheres to the guidelines.
- Proofread! Proofread! Proofread! Be sure to check for content as well as spelling and grammar. Careless errors are frowned upon. Ask someone you trust to review your essay. Another pair of eyes that’s not so close to the creative process can catch errors that you miss.
- Create a picture of a winner. By doing this on paper, you create a vivid portrait of yourself and who you are behind the grades, activities and awards. If a committee member feels like he or she knows you from reading your essay, you’ve done your job. You’ve created a powerful emotional connection that elevates your application and makes it stand out.
How are scholarship applications judged?
We all wonder what scholarship selection committees look for in an application, but there is no single answer. Every committee will be different in how it goes about reviewing the documents. It’s your job to ensure that your application stands out and is written clearly, completely and neatly. Remember, committee members have to review hundreds of scholarship applications, and you want yours to make the final cut.
Here are a few specific areas that tend to be a focus for scholarship selection committees:
- Academics: While it’s important to have a competitive GPA, committee members also consider how challenging your course load is. They will also check to see if you are taking appropriate courses to reach your goals, and how you performed in those courses. They also review your overall academic progress, and how you’ve progressed over the last few years.
- Financial Need: Many scholarships consider financial need. The SAR (Student Aid Report) of the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) Form provides important information, along with the information provided on the financial information page of your application. Because the deadline for most of the scholarships administered by the Foundation is sooner than the IRS reporting deadline for FAFSA, we ask our applicants to submit the FAFSA4Caster.
- Activities and Leadership: If this is part of the criteria for a scholarship, committee members may examine your extracurricular activities or work experience, how long you have been involved, and your leadership roles.
- Service: Community service is a key component in many scholarships. Community members will be interested in what service you have provided to your school, church, or community. They may look at activities that go above and beyond the required service job.
- Creativity: If you are artistic, you can show your creative side by indicating that you play an instrument, write poetry, paint landscapes or act in school plays. Demonstrate your ability by including copies of your work, if permissible in the application, and letting committee members know if you have won special awards or honors.
- Special Circumstances: If you have overcome any personal circumstances or obstacles along the way, the selection committee will want to know about that. Let them know how you have achieved your goals despite roadblocks you have faced.
Google your name to ensure that you have a professional online presence. Use a clean email address, such as firstname.lastname@example.org. Review your Facebook account, removing inappropriate and immature material.